Should the Raptors give Yuta Watanabe more rotation time?

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - FEBRUARY 14: Yuta Watanabe #18 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - FEBRUARY 14: Yuta Watanabe #18 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors were getting some solid contributions out of their bench in recent weeks, but injuries have forced Nick Nurse to revert to his old ways of leaning on his starters for 40 minutes a night. Role players like Yuta Watanabe have been left in the dust as a result.

Watanabe was a valued member of the rotation in the early parts of the season, but a midseason slump forced Nurse to remove all the minutes from the Japanese wing’s diet. However, recent developments might be enough to get Watanabe back on the floor outside of garbage time.

OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. have missed time with injuries in the second half. Any support that Toronto’s collection of point guards has been blunted by the fact that Fred VanVleet and Malachi Flynn have both been ailing over the last few weeks.

In need of more shooting and bench energy, Nurse might be forced to turn to Watanabe to straighten things out. Considering how poor Toronto has been from beyond the arc in recent weeks, perhaps bringing Yuta into the game as a high-energy 3-and-D guy could make some sense?

Should the Toronto Raptors play Yuta Watanabe?

Watanabe is averaging 4.5 points per game while making 42% of his shots and 38% of his 3-pointers. While his shot totals were inflated by all of the COVID-19 replacement players, scoring 26 points and tallying 13 rebounds against the Cavaliers shows that he can be productive if given a long leash.

Watanabe might not be a lights-out shooter, but any upgrade in this area is needed. Trent has been off the mark for the entire second half, Anunoby remains hurt, and VanVleet is laboring. Making one or two more threes per game could have an impact on the outcome.

Of course, throwing down a rim-rattling dunk could spark this team just as well.

Watanabe also brings defensive intensity to the table, as he is yet another versatile, long-limbed body for Nurse to throw at opponents. In fact, it was that defensive effort and intensity that helped him earn a contract with Toronto in the first place.

With so much frontcourt talent in Thad Young, Chris Boucher, and Precious Achiuwa all fighting for minutes and shots, adding a low-usage player like Watanabe on the wing might be enough to improve the team’s spacing.

Watanabe might be prone to fits of inconsistency, but we’ve seen him get back on the right track time and time again after a stint out of the rotation. The offense is not very crisp right now, meaning Yuta might have to save the say.

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